A handful of companies that I know were hurt by the algorithm change named Panda. Panda was focused and aimed at targeted content farms but has impacted many businesses. One friend of mine had to layoff his first employee due to their loss in ranking on a professional directory service that led the rankings for about a decade. Today, we paused a relationship with one of our favorite clients. Their huge loss in advertising revenue had to be dealt with (we'll still continue to support them since I have no doubt their traffic will return).
I met with the client today and the room was notably somber. They're under a lot of pressure to continue to grow revenue, so a setback like this is huge. Luckily, their product is quite engaging, so I've recommended they take a hard look at gamification to take their ravenous fans and create an atmosphere where they're continuously rewarded and recognized for utilizing the service they provide.
On the search engine optimization side, the talk was a bit tougher. When Google liked content farms, we pushed the infrastructure to publish content horizontally. A specific topic in their arsenal could have 22,000 pages under it – and we we pushed them all. The site was enormous, but leveraged Google appropriately – skyrocketing traffic and revenue.
Prior to Panda (Google is still continuing to tweak), it was easy to publish new content and have that content rank well. It seemed that good ranking on some terms influenced your ability to publish content and get ranked on subsequent keywords – even if they weren't too relevant. Not anymore.
After Panda, the algorithm appeared to be put in reverse. Any pages that existed on the site that didn't rank or drive traffic actually became a huge weight that dragged down the entire site. For 4 months straight we've watched the site continue to drop – not just in ranking, but more drastically on keywords that provided the most search volumes. Not good.
So what do companies hurt by the Google Panda algorithm do next?
- Get rid of pages that suck. Poor pages with little value, poor content, low impact and poor ranking are pulling down the great pages on your site. Get rid of them now.
- If you have a horizontal content farm… meaning there is not a lot of steps navigating between your home page and the lowest page on your site… rethink your hierarchy. Instead of publishing your great content wide into long-tail topics… collapse it into smaller silos of information. Example: If I have a site on marketing and the long-tail is how to rank on Google… instead of having a single page on how to rank on google, I should probably have a topical page on Marketing and Google that combines more of the content into an intelligent subgroup.
- Continue promoting the great pages and good ranking you do have. To withstand the weight of poor performing pages, you need to continue to promote the pages within your site that are doing well – just to sustain their ranking.
- Execute all other aspects of SEO flawlessly – including robots.txt, sitemaps.xml, pinging, page construction, etc. There's no longer any margin for error or sloppiness with your content farm. Stop making excuses and fix your site. Fix the quality, the representation, the speed… everything about it.
Content farms aren't a bad thing (Google still loves Wikipedia). Running a site that takes advantage of search engines and presents lots of great, relevant content isn't a bad thing. Consumers appreciate good content (even if Panda ignores it). Running a content farm got more difficult since Panda, though, because now the volume of cotent you are producing is met with much more negative assumptions on what you're trying to achieve.
Enlisting social media for amplification and promotion, as well as implementing other user engagement strategies like email, nurturing and gamification, can take a large volume of visitors and make up your gaps by turning them into repeat visitors.